By Any Other Name

Mozzarella is the third most popular cheese in America. Well, something called mozzarella is.

Look carefully at the label and you'll see that the cheese is labeled "low-moisture mozzarella." True mozzarella is anything but lowmoisture. In fact, it's one of the moistest cheeses you'll find. It's usually sold floating in a vat of salted water. Cut into it and it gushes.

Low-moisture mozzarella is an invention of the Midwestern dairy factories. Originally called "pizza cheese," it is not as perishable as real mozzarella (which ideally is eaten within a couple of days of being made). Being firmer, it also grates more easily and browns and melts better when cooked.

It bears a family resemblance to real mozzarella in that both are pasta filata cheeses. This means that the curd from which the cheese is made can be heated and pulled into a string.

But why mozzarella was chosen as a name is unclear because there are many low-moisture pasta filata cheeses: provolone, scamorza, provatura, cacciocavallo and a host of others, including Middle Eastern kashkaval and string cheese. Maybe it's just that the word mozzarella is so great-sounding. No matter, now that fresh mozzarella is becoming more available, the cheese is finally beginning to recover its good name.

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